I always wonder why poetry, that most ancient form of artistic expression and storytelling can’t be made a part of our everyday life? I enjoy reading poetry at all times. But since the market for poetry has gone down, the number of poetry books published of late has gone remarkably reduced. It is times like this that I wish that an experiment like the Poems on the Underground project could be replicated here in India and maybe in my own city. I know it is too much to hope for.
The public arts initiative launched in 1986 has been compiled onto several editions of books as well. Is it some kind of elitism that prevents us from painting poems on the eyesores that call themselves public transport buses? I thought if people were to be exposed to poetry this way, then maybe the poetry market can be influenced forcing all those talented poets out of the closet whether that be lack of opportunity or the hallowed halls of Indian academia.
The good thing about this poetry project is that due to space constriants the poems have to be small. Small poems that can be read when you cross the road. (But be careful please!) Nissim Ezekiel himself said that he is not interested in reading something that one can’t finish in one go. I agree with him. Since we lead such a fast paced lifestyle, hoping that anyone other than commited academics should read long book-length poems is heinous. I don’t. However, reading poetry itself gives such pleasure, I wish I could share it with everyone. My favourite as of now is Pablo Neruda.
Lost in the forest
by Pablo Neruda
Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.
Something from far off it seemed
deep and secret to me, hidden by the earth,
a shout muffled by huge autumns,
by the moist half-open darkness of the leaves.
Wakening from the dreaming forest there, the hazel-sprig
sang under my tongue, its drifting fragrance
climbed up through my conscious mind
As if suddenly the roots I had left behind
cried out to me, the land I had lost with my childhood—
and I stopped, wounded by the wandering scent.